Friday, February 1, 2008

Montessori Adventures

Ian started Montessori school in January. He goes three hours a day three days a week. While he is really getting a lot out of the experience, it is just as much for me as it is for him. I had hoped to use the time to work out, but there is so much to do to get ready to move, that I have been using for errands instead.If you do three days a week, you choose from Monday-Wednesday or Wednesday-Friday. They do this because having the days together seems to make the transition easier for them ad get into the routine better than alternating days.

This Montessori program has a transitioning in period that I really like. First, you visit the classroom with your child for about 20 minutes, then, you do a week of one hour a day and you try to leave the room. Then, the next week, they do two hours a day and finally on the third week, they go to the full three hours a day. Of course, if it takes longer, they are fine with that. I was worried that Ian would have a rough time. He is very independent as long as he knows where I am.

During the visit, he stayed very close to me and stacked cups. The first one hour day, he sat on my lap for about 10 minutes, but by the end of the hour he had made it to all four corners of the room. The next day, I was able to leave the room. He said,"No, no, Ma!", but in the time it took me to go across the hall and turn around, he was distracted. he stayed in for the rest of the hour (about 20 minutes) and then it was time to go.

Our second week, the first day was hard. they take the kids from your car and return them to your car so there are no big dramatic goodbyes at the door to the classroom. I parked and went into the room across the hall. He cried for a long time. I cried in the room, but they told that they would come get me and have me bring the car around if they thought he reached his limit. The teachers tried to hug and comfort him, but it just made him angry and he pounded the door yelling,"Mama, mama!" The way they calmed him down, was by taking him to get himself a tissue and having him wipe his nose and throw it away. He loves to throw things away. I really didn't think he was going to make it for two hours, but after they calmed him down the first time, he was happy for the rest of the class. The rest of the week, I just left and he did better and better each day.

By the third week, he cried when they took him from the car and when they returned him, but they said he did well during the day. The fourth week, he stopped crying when they returned him to the car. He is the youngest in the class, so I try to be first or second in line so he doesn't have to wait. to see a lot of other people leave before him.

Montessori teaches kids from a very young age to take care of their environment and do things for themselves. Ian loves to do things for himself, so it is a perfect fit for him. They do group activities like singing and yoga, but if kids don't want to participate, they don't have to. When I observed, every time there was a kid who refused to participate, within seconds of the activity starting, the kid would go over on his own to join. I like that because, does it really matter if a kid sings "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes"? It is not like they are refusing to take the SATs or something. The alternative would be to drag an unwilling kid over to sing and have them meltdown and disrupt everyone else. This way, everyone else participates and usually the reluctant kid joins in. I think choosing your battles with little ones is important.

Several friends are interested in the school now. I hope they like it and go. Different programs are better for different kids, but I think that Montessori is great for preschool.


Connie said...

Hi again - wow, I am so sorry we missed each other in Cairo. We seem to be on the same wavelength! My son was in a Montessori school from 2-3.5 yrs (before we moved to Cairo)... he loved it! It is great how the classes are student focused. I also liked how the mixed age groups help the children teach each other - my son was BORN to be a perfectionist, and he would not speak a word until he knew it perfectly. After a week in Montessori with older kids, he went from speaking with single words to PARAGRAPHS! Only 'trouble' was that we've had to advance him a grade. When we arrived here and entered him in a local nursery, he was far advanced over all of the senior nursery kids his age, so the school put him in pre-school (to keep him happy and challenged as much to keep him from being bored and disruptive). He's in 2nd grade now (still a year ahead) and so, while I know he is a smart kid, I also give credit to Montessori for starting him on his educational path with a very good attitude towards school. And while his little sister was too young for the Montessori school, I believe that her brother's inclination to 'help those who are younger', which was fostered by the Montessori teaching, plus her natural inclination to 'do it myself' has helped her to succeed in many things too.
Oh... we hated to move and leave that school! Wonder why more schools do not use a more Montessori like approach?? Good luck to Ian :-)

Cairo Mama said...

Thanks, Connie! I hope we find another school like this one after we move to Korea next month. It really is amazing how much he has gotten out of just one month of school so I hope to continue.

furbetta said...

korea??? we have to catch up.

I did 10 years of Montessori, but you probably already knew that.

A said...

I just stumbled across your blog as I am looking up info about our upcoming move. We could go to either Cairo or Seoul. Any tips or thoughts on either place? I am a Montessori teacher and would really like to return to the classroom after living in Beijing and now KL.

Cairo Mama said...

Cairo and Seoul are very different places. Cairo is dirty, trashy , polluted and poor. Seoul is polluted but fairly clean for a big city. There is a really good community around the Cairo American College (K-12 school where the Americans go). You should live in Maadi (an expat area) if you have kids in the school. There is also a CSA that has a gym, lending closet, classes, etc. that is geared to expats. It was founded by the wife of a US Ambassdor about 25-30 years ago, but has lots of other foreigners represented.

You can choose between Europe, the Middle East and Africa for vacation. It is in a good spot. Help is cheap. The cost of living in general is good. Not everything is cheap, of course, but you can get somethings for very little money. I think most of the things Egyptians make are made better in other Middle Eastern countries (like inlaid boxes, brass etchings, mashrabeyya, rugs, etc), but you are in a good location to go to those other countries and get decent things (with persistence and revisions) in Egypt. The poverty can be hard to deal with, but as a foreign service spouse, I am sure you are used to it. Everyone is trying to do things for you that you didn't ask them to do and they don't do well. Bakshesh. I hated the constant bakshesh (tips). But, after you get used to it, it is a neat place to be. I believe there is a French Montessori school in Maadi. Also, you have the Mediterrean Sea and the Red Sea as well as the desert for quick and cheap vacations. That is probably the best part. I think Arabic is easier than Korean (I learned to read and speak some).

Seoul, on the other hand, is high tech and very modern. In Cairo, you have camels walking down next to highrise buildings. It is very expensive for just about everything. Household help costs about the same as the US. Most people live in highrises because the houses are few and far between and old (except for the very expensive ones). There is a lot going on in Seoul, but again, everything is expensive. I think the Embassy people go to school on base at the American DoDDs school. My child is not school age so I don't know the quality. There is a English-speaking Montessori school here, but it is very expensive ($10,000 a year for 3 day a week part-day preschool). You should check with the Embassy people in Seoul, but if they don't pay for the private school tuition, you will probably not be able to afford it. I think Seoul Foreign School is where most of the business expats go. I know they pay for CAC in Cairo but there is not a US government school around as there is in Seoul.

If you have specific questions or want to chat more about things, please e-mail me at
mamaseoul at

Good luck with your decision!